Rams training camp preview

Rams training camp preview

Published Jul. 19, 2012 10:42 a.m. ET

1. Figure out who will be running the defense. Gregg Williams, initially hired by coach Jeff Fisher to be the defensive coordinator, was suspended for his role in the Saints' pay-for-performance program, but it came before the offseason program began. Fisher has insisted that the defense will be a collaborative effort with former coordinators Dave McGinnis (assistant head coach) and Chuck Cecil (secondary) on the staff. In addition, the defense originated with Fisher. However, during OTAs and minicamp, linebackers coach Blake Williams was orchestrating much of the defensive calls, and it wouldn't be a surprise if he led the defense on game days. The son of Gregg Williams, 27-year-old Blake has been on his father's staff during previous stops in Washington, Jacksonville and New Orleans and knows the present defense better than anyone.
2. Find out who can be consistent at receiver. There is a lot of competition for spots in the pass-catching corps, but it's difficult to even project the starters. There are high hopes for rookies Brian Quick (second round) and Chris Givens (fourth), plus the addition of veteran Steve Smith, who appears recovered from a knee injury that affected his last two seasons. They will be competing against holdovers Danny Amendola, Danario Alexander, Brandon Gibson, Greg Salas and Austin Pettis. Injuries affected this group in 2011 with Amendola (elbow/triceps), Alexander (hamstring) and Salas (broken leg) missing significant time. Pettis was suspended at the end of last season for using a performance enhancing drug, and will also miss the first two games of the coming season.

Cornerback Janoris Jenkins. The Rams went out on the proverbial limb when they invested a second-round pick this year (39th overall) on the talented Jenkins, whose off-field issues led to his departure from Florida and eventual landing for one season at North Alabama. Jenkins was arrested twice for possession of marijuana and another time for his involvement in a bar fight. As camp approached, there were reports that Jenkins was refusing to use a financial advisor the Rams had suggested to help him sort through the child support he faces after having fathered four children with three women. Jenkins likely would have been a high first-round pick were it not for those non-football problems. During OTAs, he was often with the first unit, so the Rams are counting on him being able to focus solely on football.

Quarterback Sam Bradford. Fisher is probably tired of saying that a key consideration in his decision to come to the Rams was the presence of Bradford, the first overall pick in the draft in 2010. Now, Bradford has to live up to that confidence after a dismal 2011 season where the offense was never comfortable with coordinator Josh McDaniels' system following the lockout, and the second half of the season where a high ankle sprain made him a shell of his 2010 self when he helped the Rams improve to a 7-9 record. With Brian Schottenheimer on board as the new coordinator, Bradford is now digesting his third offense in three seasons, but there are similarities to the system he learned during his rookie season, which he believes will result in success.

Quarterback Sam Bradford was back at his high-school football stadium in Putnam City, Okla., recently when he participated in the coin toss for the Jim Thorpe High School All-Star game. The game was part of the Jim Thorpe Native American Games.
Asked about the Native American Games by The Oklahoman, Bradford said, "I think it's awesome what they do. I've been working with them now for the past two years. Just the fact that they're committed to inspiring kids to use sport as a positive thing in their lives, and they allow them to have access to it, I think it's great. The fact that they're putting on this game tonight is even better."
When questioned about his ankle, which was injured during the 2011 season, Bradford said, "It's good, it's good. I would say there's still days where it's not 100 percent, but I really haven't had any major setbacks. It seems to be getting better every week. I'm hoping by the time training camp gets here that it'll really be a non-factor."
Bradford also has donated $500,000 to help the building of a new housing facility for students at Oklahoma that will be ready in 2013. Called Headington Hall at a total cost of $75 million, the dining hall will be called the "Sam Bradford Training Table."
Said Bradford, "My experience at Oklahoma made it possible for me to realize my dreams. The coaches, the academic environment and every aspect of being a student-athlete at OU made me a better person. I am honored to give back to a program that did so much for me and hope that in some way this contribution can make it possible for those who follow me to enjoy the same kind of experience I did as a Sooner.
"Obviously, Oklahoma is really the reason I am where I'm at today. I had a great experience at OU. It was a dream come true for me to go there and get the opportunity to play football. I just felt like me making a donation is a small thing I can do to help show my gratitude for what they did for me."
It's notable that the dining hall will bear Bradford's name because when he left Oklahoma he made a point of telling vice president for intercollegiate athletics Joe Castiglione that some day he would give money to improve the food for student-athletes.
Bradford told stlouisrams.com, "I never complained about it when I was there but when I left I definitely told Joe Castiglione that if there was one thing I could change, our training table would be better. I hope that when it does get built and it is finished I hope that future student-athletes can have top of the line meals, the best there is. And I hope that their experience is as good at OU as mine was."
Said Castiglione, "Sam Bradford developed into a consummate leader and an award-winning student-athlete at the University of Oklahoma. Sam embraced our incredible tradition here at OU and was relentless in helping his teammates enhance it. In Sam's typical humble fashion, he continues to serve as a wonderful role model for all OU alumni through his actions and deeds like this generous gift to OU Athletics and Headington Hall. Just as others before him, he leaves a legacy which allows future student-athletes to enjoy that same experience of a lifetime he relished. We appreciate Sam's commitment to this project that will benefit a wide range of students, and improve the quality of life for the entire OU campus."
In his first public appearance since being suspended indefinitely, Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams told ESPN.com "I will coach again."
Williams hosts an annual golf fundraiser that benefits children in his hometown of Excelsior Springs, Mo. He refused to talk about the bounty allegations, noting that the golf event is "all about the kids."
Williams was suspended indefinitely on March 21 by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell for his admitted role in a bounty program in which players were paid for hits that injured opponents. Williams left New Orleans in January when his contract expired for the same position with good friend Jeff Fisher with the before his punishment came down.
Williams said he has not spoken to Goodell since he learned of his punishment.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The days of hauling around a big notebook are over, so that's good. I've just got to hide it from my kids. They all want to play. They want to download apps. I don't know if coach will like that." - Running back Steven Jackson on the switch to the iPad for the team's playbooks.